Grrrrrrreat marketing ploy!

I’m such a sucker. I don’t even eat Frosties. But just look at that packaging.

Frosties

They have also done versions for Corn Flakes, Coco Pops and Rice Krispies.

Jubilee cereal boxes

Ermm… yes, I may have bought them all.

It must be hard to do your food shopping these days if you are an anti-royalist. You can’t buy a toilet roll these days without jubilee bunting and union flags printed all over it.

I’m beginning to regret not planning some kind of street/garden party now. At least if I sort one out at the last minute I can serve people cereal.

Happy jubilee, your Maj!

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New patterns!

So, I am almost ready to have a “ta-da!” moment on my Macaron dress. I have been squeezing in some sewing on night times and nap times and, barring a bit of invisible-zip-unpicking-action, I will have finished it this week. Huzzah!

I never let the fact I have a pile of UFOs stop me from moving on to buying more patterns though.  I am considering (probably, maybe, perhaps) sewing myself a dress to wear to my sister-in-law’s wedding. As soon as the idea popped into my head I gave myself permission to buy some Victory Patterns I had been lusting after for a while. The Ava dress seemed like a lovely little number for a wedding!:

Victory Patterns Ava dress

Source: Victory Patterns

There was an offer on in the Victory Patterns Etsy shop and I ended up buying three patterns. It was silly not to! So the lovely Chloe and Hazel patterns also found their way into my basket:

Victory Patterns Chloe dressVictory Patterns Hazel dress

Source: Victory Patterns

And…hello?! What are these that dropped through my door this week!:

Megan Neilsen patterns

I got both these patterns after seeing some fantastic inspiration on other blogs. Both Paunnet and Foursquarewalls made fantabulous Banksia dresses. And the darling ranges dress looks like it will be a comfy addition to my wardrobe. It’s got a tie at the back to make it more fitted/more loose dependant on your mood or how much you’ve had for lunch!

It’s not all been pattern shopping though, oh no. I have managed to sew a pair of pyjama pants for my sister who had her second baby this week. Just a shame that I missed out on Karen’s Pyjama Party by a few weeks.  I’ll take a snap of them and do a mini “ta-da” of them at some point, mainly as I am so very proud of myself for managing to use French seams all over the place.

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The great washing basket hunt

I am in the market for a wash basket. A laundry basket. You know, the place where dirty clothes go: kids t-shirts all covered in porridge, all my tops that get baby-snotted on just on the shoulder, and my husband’s array of worryingly garish socks. Apparently they are also the best place to hide small toys and half used rolls of toilet paper too. Well, the toddler seems to think so.

My trouble is I thought that if I tackled my laundry issues by putting the piles of clothes into those massive blue Ikea bags I had cracked it. However, instead of having piles of clothes everywhere waiting to be washed, I now just had piles of clothes that looked like they were wrapped in tarpaulins waiting to be washed.

I am under the half-baked illusion that, were I to litter the house liberally in laundry baskets, I would conquer this appalling household chore and no longer feel as if I were regularly doing  battle with mountains of mucky pants and armies of unpaired socks. This is in part quite true. They would just be divided up a bit though and be battalions instead of armies. Anyway, that’s my fuzzy logic and I’m sticking to it.

Here’s my first observation – we all clearly have a different name for this household receptacle of smelly smalls. I had to search for wash basket, laundry hamper, laundry bin, linen basket, washing bin and goodness knows what else just to make sure I hadn’t missed any really good options. I don’t think I did. I think I saw all the world had to offer in this arena. I was a bit sick of laundry baskets by the end. Well, by the beginning if truth be told.

Second observation – I think I was after a kind of laundry basket nirvana. I wanted something a bit different, not too boring, perhaps even nice to look at. Too ambitious? Clearly. I saw lots of posh ones that were very expensive. Admittedly, they were made from leather, but still, £140?! For a thing that holds your undercrackers?! Then there was the middle ground: World of wicker. White wicker, brown wicker, black wicker. Wicker is the laundry basket manufacturers material of choice (well, I say wicker but there was a fair bit of willow and rattan too, but I apply the word ‘wicker’ very liberally to mean any stick-like fibre. I’m not being accurate…sorry). But, how many times have you snagged your clothes on those rogue splinters that jut out from the basket intent on scratching you or laddering your most beloved pair of coloured tights? No, wicker was out.

In the end, I found nothing to inspire me in the ‘real’ world of grown-up offerings so I retreated to being a child and ordered this…

I figured that it may as well be interesting to look at, raise a wry smile and at least double as a way to coerce the toddler to put her own dirty clothes in it.  It was from Vertbaudet and cost £19. They are always flinging some offers around though, so I managed to get some money off for being a new customer.

Here’s a few other interesting ones I came across, in case you too fancy a slightly unusual laundry baskets/bins/whatever you want to call it!

Peg laundry bag – Urban Outfitters (£13, reduced from £25)

Trompe L’Aundry laundry basket, Modcloth ($24.99)

Vintage 50s/60s German laundry bag, Etsy ($32)

I’m slightly embarrassed that the topic of my purchasing a laundry basket has made it onto this blog, but, hey, that’s life! The human struggle for a place to put your sweaty pants.

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Periods of lethargy

When my sister was at school, her A-level History teacher sat with my mum and dad on parents’ evening and said she was “capable of brilliance”, but had “periods of lethargy”.

I had the same History teacher. We used to call him a rude name involving his bottom. I can’t remember what he said about me on parents’ evening because I have a terrible memory for things like that. I can remember the lyrics to umpteen songs from that period, but actual things that happened to me in my life? I’m not very good at recalling things like that.

Anyway, my sister reminded me of this story this week because we were talking about our hobbies and how easy it is NOT to do them. My sister loves crochet, cooking, baking and cake decorating, and generally handmaking things for her house. She has just finished making a quilt. I love cooking, baking, and sewing clothes. Or I love the idea of cooking, baking and sewing clothes. At the moment, I actually do very little of the latter. I have a Pinterest board with all the patterns I am going to make. I read loads of blogs of people who are sewing their own clothes. I have read up on techniques on Burdastyle. I look through sites like Modcloth and Topshop and see dresses that inspire me to make my own version. Yet, all of these things involve sitting in front of a laptop rather than a sewing machine.

I have become officially lazy. I am living out my crafting desires vicariously through others; the curse of the internet.

Then there’s the TV. Entire evenings are being lost to it. At the moment, it’s the boss of me. It sits there in the corner with its menacing shiny black surface, a bit like that monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. In my defence, after a long day with the toddler and her 7 month old accomplice, I just want to collapse into a heap in front of the it and switch my brain off. But then I get mad for not achieving anything with my spare time.

So, I have decided to take a stand and become more productive. The first step is to outline which things I am going to make or achieve this year. The second is to declare war on the laptop and the television. They are evil and must be stopped from draining away my energy and time.

Here is a little list for myself. I keep hearing the angry voice of an inner fitness coach; I’m getting all tough on myself. It’s like that lady in the tracksuit from Glee is stuck in my head (I don’t know her name because I’ve never watched it even though my mum is, like, the biggest Journey fan on the face of the earth ever*).

Do these things, you lazy oaf 

1. Learn to crochet. (I did this! It happened here. I will write more about this soon).

2. Using newly acquired crochet skills, make a pair of fingerless gloves for the winter. This gives me two seasons to get moving on these gloves – two whole seasons! Make it happen!

3. Make at least three new dresses – starting with the Colette Paterns Macaron, another Burdastyle Anda and one other. Then make a skirt.

4. Refashion the clothes I have previously thrifted and make them into things I will actually wear. Start with the two skirts. You know which ones I mean.

5. Make something from my Larousse Gastronomique book. Actually I think one could more accurately describe it as a tome rather than a book. Anyway, I have owned it for three years and never made anything from it.

6. Make that sourdough starter I keep going on about. I mean, come on, it’s just flour and water.

7. Visit the massive antique fair in Lincolnshire.

8. That ugly untiled, unloved splashback area behind the worktop in the kitchen? Do something about that. Tile it. Paint it with chalkboard paint. Anything.

9. Sort out the top of the cellar and make it into laundry heaven.

10. Stop whining about having no time for your hobbies (make time, you lazy oaf!)

*My mum loves Journey. I’m prepared to concede that she may not be the biggest fan in the world, but she is certainly competing for the biggest fan in Blighty. She has a Journey tattoo. A grown woman. With a Journey tattoo. That’s how hardcore Journey-lovin’ she is.

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Soup for vegetable avoiders

I’m convinced toddlers are trained in vegetable avoidance via some kind of university distance learning course. Modules also include ‘Strops, tantrums and hysterics’, ‘picking your nose in public’ and ‘techniques for crayoning randomly around the home’.

I attempt to smuggle vegetables into my daughter’s meals with varying degrees of success. I sometimes go for the straightforward approach and just put cooked vegetables on the plate (too blatant! Always left uneaten). Another ploy is to try to hide them in pasta sauces (Oh no. She’s spotted them. Look how dexterously she can remove them from the sticky spaghetti and simply ingest the carb). Recently, I managed to get her to eat carrot sticks by devising a cunning crunching competition.

The other day we were at a friend’s house and she made soup for lunch. I confidently predicted that my two-year-old would turn her nose up at this – she doesn’t ‘do’ soup and she is inherently suspicious of vegetables these days. Obviously she overheard me and was hell-bent on showing me up, as she finished the entire bowl full. Needless to say I asked for the recipe immediately.

This recipe makes a huge pot load and is chock full of vegetables. Just look at all those vegetables. Funnily enough, this soup does not include any red pepper. I’m not sure why I put it in the photo; he’s a vegetable gatecrasher. He was there, all red and shiny. He looked like he wanted to get involved. I let him in the shot, but he didn’t make it into the soup because…well, because he doesn’t belong in this minnestrone. No, he is destined for a spicier fate later this weekend when I chop him into chunks and plunge him headlong into a chilli con carne.

Raw Vegetables

As you are chopping up the veggies for this soup you can’t fail to feel virtuous. Onion, celery, carrot, fennel, spinach, tomatoes, cannellini beans. Each one of those is one of your five a day. Can you hit ALL of your five a day in one dish? Is that allowed?

Vegetables in pan

My daughter declares this to be ‘yummy, mummy’. I think the fact you serve it with a sprinkling of parmesan on top and a chunk of bread has a lot to do with it.

Minnestrone (based on Jamie Oliver’s Early Autumn Minnestrone)

Serves 4-6

300g tin of cannellini beans
olive oil
4 rashers smoked pancetta or bacon
2 small red onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 sticks of celery, trimmed and chopped
½ a head of fennel, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
a small bunch of fresh basil, leaves and stalks separated
2 x 400g tins of plum tomatoes
a glass of red wine
2 small courgettes, quartered and sliced
200g spinach, washed and roughly sliced (including stalks)
600ml chicken, ham or vegetable stock
55g dried pasta
a block of Parmesan cheese, to serve
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a good slosh of olive oil in a saucepan and add the chopped pancetta or bacon, onions, carrots, celery, fennel, garlic and the basil stalks.

On a low heat, sweat the veggies and bacon slowly, with the lid just ajar, for around 15 minutes until soft. Try not to let it catch and brown – this was hard for me as my hobs are always ridiculously hot no matter how low I turn them. Add the tinned tomatoes, courgettes and red wine and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Now add the spinach, stock and beans. If you are using pasta shapes, you can put them in whole. If using spaghetti, you can snap it into smaller lengths before you add it. Stir and continue to simmer until the pasta is cooked. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Serve with a scattering of basil leaves, a generous sprinkling of parmesan and a big slab of (in a lovely, fuzzy, ideal world) warm, homemade bread. This would also be amazing with a dollop of pesto come to think of it.

As with most things, this soup tastes so much better the day after you make it when the flavours all develop.

This last photo is not great. The light was fading and I was trying to  make sure that you could not see how much my cooker needs a good clean.

Minnestrone soup

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Vintage treasure hunting

The very horrible British weather this weekend was a blessing in disguise.  Rather than traipsing round a soggy car boot sale, we headed to a very lovely antiques centre near Hebden Bridge instead!

Antiques Centre - china

It ticked the boxes for me (stuffed to the rafters with fab vintage things) and the mister (they served full English breakfasts). The only trouble was the two little people were not very impressed with the place and the buggy was in danger of knocking over a few shelves of precariously stacked china. So, off went the mister (after his full English of course) and the kids to a playgym which very fortuitously had just opened a mere stones throw away. Leaving me, alone, surrounded by musty-smelling treasure… I couldn’t have been happier.

A shelf of goodies at the Antiques Centre

This place has so many nooks and crannies you could easily get lost. In fact, one stall is so perilously piled with stuff that you could easily be involved in a vintage avalanche. A search party would need to get involved.

Lovely paper pompoms at the Antiques Centre

I think I was rather restrained in my purchases. I discovered a nice suitcase that was clean and, most importantly, didn’t smell! At £5, it’s much better than buying a plasticy storage box at IKEA. I’m thinking this will be the perfect wardrobe-top storage solution for my huge collection of scarves. Here it is posing with one of those scarves (which actually I use more as a tablecloth as it’s large enough and far too lovely to be simply draped round my neck).

Suitcase

(BTW – The red belt on top of the suitcase came from a local second hand shop I also nipped to this weekend, and was bought for the princely sum of £4.)

I also bagged some lovely vintage china at the antique centre.

Vintage plates

These plates (one large, six small) set me back £6 which I thought was a bargain. I find these ‘sandwich sets’ everywhere when we visit antiques centres or fairs. They are always cheap too as I suppose people no longer eat dainty sandwiches on such things any more. More’s the pity.

All my little vintage side plates have encountered fatal breakages in the last few weeks. I have put this down to leaving them to soak too long in the water when handwashing them. They simply snapped in two when anything else was placed on top of them or they encountered a slight knock. Anyway, I have saved the pieces and plan to glue them back together and display them on the wall instead.

I’d be interested to know – do any of you wash your vintage plates/cups in a dishwasher? I have tried it with one plate a few times but it totally destroyed the pattern. I have heard of some people using a dishwasher but how can such delicate china stand up to this?

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Refashioning vintage

I used to visit a shop near to where I live that sold unadulterated vintage clothing. The pieces smelt fusty, had the occasional hole but  were all original. The joy to me was finding something that had obviously been handmade and giving it another lease of life.

I haven’t been to the shop in quite a while, but ventured there this weekend for a look round. It appears to have new owners and, whilst there is a selection of original vintage items, there were lots of other items that had been refashioned. Now, I don’t mind a bit of this. Vintage cuts and styles are often very different to new trends. Hems are long and necklines can be high – there is a lot of scope for altering elements like this and bringing a vintage item bang up to date. However, the refashions I saw this weekend were items that I thought would have been better off left as they were. There were vintage rock band tour t-shirts that had been incorporated into black jersey dresses. I would have bought one of the t-shirts as it was originally, but as a dress it just looked a bit cheap. Then there were things that had been slashed up and twisted. There was also some refashioned knitwear that was incredibly expensive and the finishing was just shoddy.

Suffice to say I don’t think I’ll be going back. I was a bit sad that one of my favourite vintage shops had gone this way. I’m not opposed to refashioning – I just thought it was a waste of the original when the refashion was so poor.

I love the stuff over at Traid Remade – they take second hand clothing and recycle it into new styles. There are lovely peter pan collar tops, tote bags and and amazing range of ballet pumps. Maybe it’s just that the styles of these refashions are more up my street? Or perhaps it’s because there are refashions made from men’s tweed jackets or old jumpers – things that would sit on charity shop rails rather than items you would call ‘vintage’.

What do you think? Come across any naff vintage refashions?

(The real question is – am I just getting old?!)

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Look! Here are some people who actually sew!

My Macaron dress pattern is still sitting folded up on the top of my chest of drawers. I am going to trace it this week and by the weekend I am cutting a toile. Perhaps if I commit this in writing here I will actually do it. I think I was secretly waiting until my post-baby/post-Christmas/just-stop-eating-biscuits-all day-tummy had miraculously disappeared so I could cut a smaller size. Turns out, I actually have to stop eating biscuits and/or start flinging myself around in some kind of zumba-salsa-frenzy in order for that to happen. Oh well.

In the meantime, there are lots of other people who are making dresses, creating patterns and generally being productive. Right now I am obsessing/loving/daydreaming about…

Sarai in the Colette studio

1. A Day in the Life of Sarai Mitnick of Colette Patterns on Tilly’s blog. I am nosy at the best of times, but this is fascinating to me. I am green with envy over Sarai and her fantastic work-life balance. Plus the fact that her work is sewing and patterns. Oh, and even her Friday morning breakfast meeting sounds fun. AND she fits in running and yoga and gardening. Hmmm… am I allowed to blame my children for my lack of sewing productivity?

Karen's Minoru jacket

2. Karen’s fab Minoru jacket over on Did you Make That? Karen’s blog is one of my favourites – she has lovely makes and her posts are always funny. She is another person whose productivity puts me to shame – she has made two coats in three months. Perhaps if I spent less time using Pinterest and actually making things…

Lladbybird in her Renfrew top

3. Lladybird has written a blog post all about Conquering Knits. She starts off with the phrase: ‘Knits are not scary or super difficult to work with!‘ which I love. One of the very first dresses I ever made was a wrap around dress in navy jersey. It is not going to win any awards for its beautiful finishes but it was really straightforward to pull together. The issues I have with it stem more from my techniques as a newbie seamstress rather than the fabric itself.

Zig Zag Seam

4. There is a good round-up of fancy seams on Victory Patterns. It includes my very favourite, the French seam. I could actually be sewing some French seams right now, but I’m blogging… and tweeting… and reading blogs and tweets.

Did you spot all the excuses I came up with in this post for not doing any sewing recently? Here they are if you missed ’em: I’m too tubby round the middle, I have children, I’m Pinterest crazy, I’m spending far too much time on social media on the subject of sewing, but not actually sewing.

I’ll be back soon with a posting of my very first ever handmade dresses! I made them about a year and a half ago, when I first got my sewing machine. You’ll laugh.


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Dressaholic: Novelty Prints (well, actually just a whole lotta cat prints)

Last time, my dress-crush was on frocks with peter pan collars. This time it’s the world of novelty prints. These prints just seem to lift what are incredibly simple shapes and styles into something much more.

Here’s one I found on Modcloth. I adore Modcloth. I think this will become pretty obvious. Although, I’ve never bought anything from there, I just drool over the dresses on the website like I am pressing my nose up against their virtual shop window from across the pond. This particular dress has cats all over it. I know a lot of people are mad about cats, especially my neighbours who have loads of the little fellas. In real life, I am more of a dog person myself, but in the case of fabric for dresses cat-print wins over dog-print.

Modcloth dress covered in cats

Source: Modcloth

The best thing about the cat dress is that I reckon if I could find a similar fabric or design my own cat print (hello?! Spoonflower anyone?!) I could use the Anda dress pattern on Burdastyle, minus the drawstring. Then I just need to find a neat little vintage mustard yellow belt and the look is complete!

Have you seen any cat print fabric anywhere? Any nice cat print? If I search online I find fabrics littered with ridiculously twee or downright horrid images of moggies in every possible pose.

Cat print seems to be everywhere. Victoria Beckham has them all over her dresses:

Victoria Beckham dresses

Source: Elle Magazine

I also found this cute cat print over at Joy:

Louche Chat Dress
Source: Joy

Wait! Is that a peter pan style collar and a novelty print?! This dress would be in my wardrobe right now t’were it not for the fact it has a cut out bit at the back. I’m not a fan of this type of thing – I mean, I myself am not even familiar with the features of my lower back so why should perfect strangers get a look? Also, who needs a draught whooshing right down their spine? I say these things, but actually if I could get away with it (read: drop a dress size or two) I probably would rock a cut-out back. Or I could buy it, and wear a cardi over the top at all times. A very ‘Yorkshire’ thing to do. This would actually kill two birds with one stone as I’m also never fond of sleeveless dresses due to my upper arm demons. Hey, all my insecurities are coming out today!

Anyway, on to more novelty prints! Here’s another from Joy, this time in a lovely green with apple print design:

Apple print dress

Source: Joy

I love this because it just looks like something that Jess from New Girl aka Every-girl’s-imaginary-bestest-friend Zooey Deschanel would wear. By the way, I found out this week that you pronounce her name like Zoe, not like Zoo-ee. I have been saying Zoo-ee for years. I am strangely disappointed.

I found this amazing fabric on Etsy so attempting to make a similar dress could be a possibility. Anybody know if there are any patterns out there that mirror the dress style?

Lastly, here is a bike print dress I found over at Anthropologie:

Bike Lane Dress

It’s £128. That’s Anthro for you though. I love the print but don’t like the style of the dress or the hefty price tag.

Any amazing novelty prints you’ve come across lately?

x

P.S. If you fancy making your own novelty print, Elsie Larson has a tutorial on over on her blog, A Beautiful Mess, showing how she made a custom pony print dress. Time to get a potato out and start carving small feline shapes out I think?

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Pinterest made me do it

Do you use Pinterest? (I was going to say “Do you Pinterest?” but it isn’t a verb and my other half has read ‘Eats Shoots and Leaves’ and would probably kill me).

Anyway – I do, but it’s like a vortex where time is swallowed and you have pretty much nothing to show for it except lots of pretty pictures.

So, the plan is to run a little project where I will be making things (food, crafts, clothing) inspired by things I’ve seen and then all those hours I spend pinning and repinning will seem a bit more useful. It’s called ‘Pinterest made me do it’.

Here are the first three things I plan on making:

Something to eat

Brownie in a mug

Source: Compulsive Craftiness

Something to wear

Felt Bows

Source: www.fortheloveofblogtherapy.com

Something to pull my fringe off my face in the morning when I look in the mirror and go ‘bleurgh’

Headbands

Source: Make it and Love it

Follow me on Pinterest and leave a comment with your Pinterest details and I’ll follow you!

P.S. I plan for this blog to look a whole lot better soon once I get a chance to change WordPress around a bit, add some colour and more pics. Stay tuned!

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